Physical Activity - Why it's Important
Regular physical activity really does help with keeping good health. In fact, there is now considerable evidence that keeping active is more important to health than smoking, blood pressure levels and cholesterol.
Small changes bring about big results. You don’t have to join a gym, or take up jogging. Simply changing how much often you walk rather than drive or take a bus, makes real differences. People who exercise regularly benefit in the following ways:
Heart disease. People who keep active are much less likely to develop heart disease. Exercise is good for the heart muscle and encourages good circulation to the heart. Blood pressure, stress levels and body weight all tend to be lower in people who regularly exercise.
Weight control. Exercise helps to burn off excess fat. Regular exercise combined with a sensible diet is the best way to lose weight. Overweight people have greater chances of developing diabetes, heart disease, gall bladder disease and joint problems.
Stress. There is some evidence that mild depression is helped by exercise and many people find their stress levels are considerably reduced by regularly exercising. In addition, if sleeping is a problem, regular exercising during the day (not near to bedtime) encourages a relaxed, healthy tiredness and poor sleep patterns often improve with regular exercise.
Muscle strength. Improved muscle strength may be particularly beneficial to those people with back and neck problems. Strengthening muscles helps prevent back, neck and muscular sprains.
Osteoporosis. Regular exercise has been shown to help prevent osteoporosis. It stimulates bone producing cells and therefore strengthens the bones.
Cancer. The risk of developing several cancers, including bowel cancer, is lower in people who keep an active lifestyle
How Active is Active?
Any activity is better than none. 30 minutes of good activity 5 times per week is a good target. Walking or cycling to work and the shops instead of going by car or bus is a good start. Walking up stairs instead of using the lift or escalator. Getting off the bus a stop early to walk the rest of the way. A general attitude of walking more and at a quicker pace should become the norm. You should aim to walk at a brisk pace – feeling a bit puffed, but able to pass the “talk test” – you
should be a able to carry on a conversation with some one walking beside you.
More vigorous exercise, for instance at a gym or fitness centre, often just puts people off. Once you are a bit more active, and feeling fitter, it is worth considering more vigorous exercise for 30 minutes 2-3 times per week. A gradual build-up over several weeks is sensible. A vigorous exercise session should make the person a little sweaty and puffed but not uncomfortably so, or in pain. Always warm-up first with gentle bends and stretches and then gradually build-up to more vigorous exercise.
Perseverance and keeping it up
One of the biggest obstacles to starting an exercise programme is the uphill battle to become fit. If unfit, many people feel that the first few attempts at exercise are quite a struggle. Persevere and this should gradually change. Try to keep exercise high on the list of priorities throughout the week. If one kind of exercise becomes boring, switch to other type to maintain the health benefits. Try and be realistic about personal goals to keep exercise beneficial but enjoyable.